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ART-e-FACT, STRATEGIES OF RESISTANCE   ISSUE #03, TECHNOMYTHOLOGIES
 

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CRITICAL
TECHNOLOGY: PERFORMANCE: REFLECTION

DISCOURSES OF MANIFESTA - CRITICAL READING OF THE DISCOURSES OF AN INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION

PART I

Status and Priorities
A PRE-CONSIDERATION FOR MANIFESTA 3

Preliminary Step

The history of transfigurations from art to culture has its ‘own’ international and its ‘own’ local history which can be depicted by characteristic stitching points (point de capiton)1

In his diary from mid-sixties, John Cage wrote the following remarks (anticipations):

"To know whether or not art is contemporary, we no longer use aesthetic criteria (if it's destroyed by shadows, spoiled by ambient sounds); (assuming these) we use social criteria: can include action on the part of others."2

Cage pointed out the uncertain divergence from Modernist essentialist autonomy of art to anarchical effects of representation of culture as 'the substance' of art. After Duchamp, Batailles, Benjamin, Wittgenstein, Lacan and Cage himself, this tour de force was entirely expectable and probable. Art has become a matter (object, situation, event) of 'culture' in the shifting between 'possible worlds'. The aura is lost, it remained merely as trace, memory, layer, and perhaps delay3.

Two decades later, Victor Burgin wrote about the end of art theory promoting the Postmodern condition (condition post-moderne):

"Art theory, understood as those interdependent forms of art history, aesthetics, and criticism which began during the Enlightenment and culminated in the recent period of high modernism, is now at an end. In our present so-called Postmodern era the end of art theory now is identical with the objectives of theories of representations in general: a critical understanding of the models and means of symbolic articulation of our critical forms of sociality and subjectivity."4

Around the same time, in mid-eighties, David Carroll, one of the less consequent followers of Derrida's teachings, tried to name the situation of border relations of theory, art, literature, philosophy and culture as paraeshetics. Paraesthetics refers to the fascination with the borders of possible worlds. In other words, paraesthetics doesn't aim at resolving the issue of 'borders' in art, theory and culture, but it aims at entering the game of shifting, representing, nearing and postponing possible inscriptions of discursive identities of art, theory and culture. This has to do with events that are being inscribed in the process or of a behaviour that is being inscribed in a wider discursive body. Once again:

"The task of paraesthetic theory is not to resolve all questions concerning the relations of theory with art and literature, but rather, to rethink these relations and, through the transformation and displacement of art and literature, to recast the philosophical, historical and political 'fields' - 'fields' with which art and literature are inextricably linked."5

Carroll's notion of paraesthetics as the theory of borderline syndromes of theory, art and culture is a kind of pre-text of the promise that Manifesta 3 is declaring today, pointing out the fascination with 'borders', 'borderline', 'relativity' of the relation margin-centre.

At one moment, at the end of eighties, at one very specific moment in European history, a reconstitution of the function of art took place. Art was once again 'a matter of culture' with certain mediating functions. The mediation was, this time, between Western (liberal and Social-Democratic) European societies of integration, and the post-political (pre-transitional, transitional or 'adjusted') fragmented and stratified East European societies.6After the fall of the Berlin Wall, art has become once again political or perhaps anthropological without being necessarily political, ideological or representational in its content. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, European art doesn't 'reflect' the social content by ways of thematics; it rather does it directly, "within the organisation of the very denominating economy, where thematics is merely its secondary consequence."7

Art is thus revealed not as some 'pre-human chaos', an indistinct chasm of nature but as a defined practise, which means a denominating practise within obvious social requirements, expectations and actions.

In other words, the flux of European art from 'the autonomy of Modernism'8and 'the disinterest of eclectic Postmodernisms'9, towards acquiring social functions (functions of culture) of mediation between 'possible worlds' (centre, margin, transitional formation, non-transitional formation), has influenced art itself, which means the possibility of its material formulations. Formulations of paintings and sculpture are being replaced by formulations of open information work10which is the erased trace of culture on a site-specific place.11Or, it is the 'inscription' of layered traces of culture on a site-specific place. That is why the ontology of those 'contemporary' works is not aesthetical but rather social: it is 'of' culture. Ontology is not the presence of form, but the resistance (entropy) of form:

"Presence is therefore far from what is believed to be the meaning of sign, that which is indicated by the trace; presence is the trace of a trace, the trace of erasing a trace."12

The exhibitions Manifesta 1, Manifesta 2 and, I recklessly presume, Manifesta 3 are, first and foremost, political exhibitions (political productions) of European multiculturalism (culture-function-structure instead of aesthetics-identification-form). These exhibitions do not attain their political identification through representing an explicit political theme, attitude or the 'iconically'13oriented symbol (text); they do it through the very order of non-conflicting arrangement, archiving and classification of 'erased traces' of European incomparable identities or discourses, by entirely curator-oriented and comparable means. Note: while American multiculturalism sees art and artists in the production activity of binary promises of racial and gender identities within pragmatic individualism, European multiculturalism establishes a triad model of promises of 'ideal' non-conflicting comparabilities:

(i) centre (paradigmatic 'great' European cultures)

(ii) margin (closed, small, regional and peripheral European cultures) and

(iii) one's own other (East European cultures in transition /pre-, present, post-) which is in an even 'more' marginal relation with the European centre and margin)

Manifesta 3 can therefore be at once: a representation of erased traces of differing European cultures and the constitution of an ideal multi-European scheme (modality) of relations of specific investment and universal profit. There is no territory game, but the function of economy (production, exchange and consumption) which, as an erased trace, is an artistic code or a work which annuls itself as art and confirms the possibility of European identity of differences on the 'level' of cultures. Art is the function of culture.


First Person Speech

I cannot imagine Manifesta 3. There are few things I can imagine in this hot Belgrade June night. It is really hard to think about Ljubljana today, here from Belgrade; to think of a big international exhibition, of European trends of offer, demand and consumption (of pleasure /jouissance/). No, there aren't any particular emotions in my words. It is an entirely cold archiving of 'inscriptions', 'traces' and their erasing or layering. On the one hand, there is an effort to realise the effect of projected European multiculturality in a manifestative and spectacular way (Ljubljana) through a highly idealistic slogan: "Don't ask what Europe can do for you; ask what you can do for Europe!" On the other hand, there is the preservation (hibernation) of emotion, the state, or the horror of 'erased traces' of the world divided in blocks prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall (Belgrade). In the eyes of Ljubljana, Europe is depicted as a positive social value (the multiplication of social value in its promised exchange). In the eyes of Belgrade, Europe is depicted as the negative social value (reduced social value). I am talking about 'the jetty'14and the atmosphere15of this warm June night. I am talking about thoroughly conflicting European images that simultaneously co-exist in the transition situation. European faces and grimaces.

What is it all about? The post-Berlin-wall-fall époque has different meanings and values in different possible worlds of Europe. There is not one post-époque, as there is not one Europe. Europe is multiplying. Any European face is possible. I certainly remember Lyotard's words on postmodernism as pluralism. But what does pluralism mean? From the non-conflicting point of view, pluralism means: "everything goes" (everything is possible, everything is at once actual and retro); from the conflicting point of view, global pluralism confirms local totalitarianisms as a verification of its own plurality (Le différend)16. Did I just offer a corrected Lyotard? Is it a speech from the cage (Cage)? No, John Cage was right, art no more functions according to aesthetic principles, but according to social ones; yet the mechanisms of production, exchange and consumption of 'reality' do not function the same in every society. I recall the encounter with the art historian Charles Harrison in Ljubljana in October 1990. Back then, he was saying that every art is constituted according to the principles of society, especially Modern and Postmodern art; in fact, the autonomy of art is always and solely a political formulation.


The Intentions of Manifesta 3

I cannot imagine Manifesta 3 but I can observe certain intentions of the exhibitions I saw in the Modern Gallery of Ljubljana as well as certain intentions (promises, manifestos)17of Manifesta 3. Indeed, the intentions of Manifesta 3 exhibition do exist. They are formulated in multiple register: from declared manifestative attitudes of the exhibition (the promise of the issue of border line) to unspoken target contents (re-coding of Ljubljana as 'the city of European culture') to postponed (according to Derrida, différAnce means also 'extracting', 'extricating', 'differing', 'distancing in time', 'postponing') phantasms (how to make out of East European, transitional, marginal art a 'cultural value' akin to European, international or transnational art).

I compared highly diverse exhibitions that took place in Ljubljana Modern Gallery. Those are Sense of Order (1996), Ljubljana Epicentre (1997) and U3 (1997). Although conceptually different, those exhibitions are determined (supervised) by the imperative for identifying a 'specific place' (Ljubljana) as the place of representation of contemporary art as culture in European (geography of cultures), inter-national (hegemony of the mode of expression and presentation within artistic institutions) and trans-national (passage from various formations of production relations) context. Context does not have territory, but it has economy.

This means that Manifesta 3 could be perhaps understood as a requirement for a curatorial practise that is re-constructing and re-semanticising artists' requirements to create site-specific works in literal18, allegoric19and mediatic20sense. Two artistic approaches come to my mind: that of Tadej Pogačar ("to inhabit the institution in the form of parasite")21and Marjetica Potrč ("to locate and identify the actually erased traces of concrete urbanistic entropies")22. If transferred to curatorial strategies, do these artistic proceedings become a macro-recreation of the exhibition as 'archive'? Or do they become 'maps' of actual European culture in relation to the specific local cultural space that shows its capabilities of re-coding and de-coding the unstable European identity - yet no more in regard to relative margin-centre relations (as Manifesta 1 and 2), but in regard to multiplied and scattered possibilities of recognising centres and margin?

Elaboration of previous sentences!

What is it all about? At the moment of the disintegration of self-managed Socialism (or Real-Socialism) in the eighties, prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the artistic practise of NSK (Laibach, Irwin) has multi-facetedly displayed (materially inscribed) the theoretical construction of Slovenian theoretical psychoanalysis (Žižek & Co.) in the process of creating a cynical schism between the symbolical and the real of the Yugoslav society. Curatorial practices were merely following, recording, classifying and aestheticising NSK's advance into the real/Real of late Socialist society. Art was a privileged ideal territory where it was possible to talk cynically about society (politics, ideology). That is to say, art was the territory from which one could organise intrusions and attacks on society, politics, culture - into the territories of denominating practices.23In the nineties, there is no such specificity of territory and possibility for attack. Symbols became signs, signs became traces, almost denominators. In the nineties, there is production, exchange and consumption of 'cultural values' within a society that has overtaken art's aesthetisation. The society resembles art, and art has no more its territory because it is a trace, a trace of erasing art that becomes culture in order to play 'the game' in the function of society. Therefore, the phantom 'parasitic' institutions of Tadej Pogačar or the phantom 'entropic' urbanism of Marjetica Potrč become denominating paradigms or patterns through which curatorial and theoretical positions of settling Europe in Ljubljana can be built. This building is manifested through the border which is seemingly annulled and which shows itself in its annulment (invisibility) as the border between multi-faceted European faces. European faces keep on multiplying...


Concluding comment

The text you have just read is written in the manner of transfiguration in the discourse of theory of art history into obvious manifestations of theory of culture. This text is a sort of simulacrum of the Manifesta exhibition since it is made of erased traces of Slovenian social theory (Structuralist, Poststructuralist and Lacanian theoretical psychoanalysis) and of the traces of Slovenian art (the literalness of OHO, the cynical idealism of NSK and, certainly, the mobility of 'art as culture' of the nineties /Marjetica Potrč and Tadej Pogačar/). By its form, this text shows what it says: and that is that art and theory have lost their exceptionality by becoming culture and that culture is what, in this moment, has 'defeated' art.



References

1 Slavoj Žižek, "From Stitching Point to Super-ego" ("Od prošivenog boda do nad-ja"), from Bureaucracy and Pleasure (Birokratija i uživanje), SIC, Belgrade, 1984, p. 39.

2 John Cage, “from: Diary: How to Improve the World (You will Only Make Matters Worse) 1965-67", from Eliot Weinberger (ed), American Poetry since 1950 - Innovators and Outsiders, Marsilio Publishers, New York, p. 140.

3 Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Time of its Mechanical Reproduction", from Essays, Nolit, Belgrade, 1974, p. 119.

4 Victor Burgin, The End of Art Theory. Criticism and Postmodernity, Humanities Press International, INC, Atlantic Highlands NJ, 1986, p. 204.

5 David Carroll, Paraesthetics: Foucault Lyotard Derrida, Methuen, New York, 1987, p. 189.

6 Compare: Frederic Jameson, "Cultural Logics of Late Capitalism", Postmodernism, Problemi-Razprave, Ljubljana, 1992; Mikhail N. Epstein, After the Future, The Paradoxes of Postmodernism and Contemporary Russian Culture, The University of Massachusets Press, Amherst, 1995; and Aleš Erjavec, Towards the Image (K podobi), Zveza kulturnih organizacij Slovenije, Ljubljana, 1996.

7 "Art, society/text" ("Umetnost, družba/tekst"), Razprave-Problemi No. 3-5 (147-149), Ljubljana, 1975, pp. 1-10. The Serbo-Croatian translation of the text was published in Polja No. 230, Novi Sad, 1978, p. 10.

8 Tomaž Brejc, The Dark Modernism. Images, Theories, Interpretations (Temni modernizem. Slike, teorije, interpretacije), Cankarjeva založba, Ljubljana, 1991.

9 Andrej Medved, Poetics of the Eighties in Painting and Sculpture (Poetike osemdesetih let v slikarstvu in kiparstvu), Obalne galerije, Piran, 1991.

10In the nineties, it is characteristic that the ontology of the work of art is being redefined according to the idea of the work of art as information in the conceptual art of the sixties and seventies. The difference is in that the 'work' of the nineties is being realised according to the media mass infrastructure of the late Ljubljana.

11The work is created or, to be more precise, produced in a concrete specific space that consists of material and semantic 'traces' of the space itself. Such a work cannot be realised in another place. Compare: Thomas Crow, "Site-Specific Art: The Strong and the Weak", from Modern Art in the Common Culture, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1996.

12The words of Jacques Derrida as quoted by Nenad Miščević in White Noise. Studies in Philosophy of Language (Beli Šum. Studije iz filozofije jezika), Dometi, Rijeka, 1978, p. 20.

13Braco Rotar, "The Logics of transformation of signifiance is the logic of the materialistic conception of representational systems" (“Logika transformacije signifiance je logika materialističnega koncipiranja sistemov reprezentacije”) , Razprave-Problemi No. 128-132, Ljubljana, 1973, pp. 68-7.

14Jacques Derrida, "Some Statements and Truisms about neologisms, Newisms, Postisms, Parasitisms, and Other Small Seismisms", from David Carroll, The States of 'Theory'. History, Art and Critical Discourse, Stanford University Press, Stanford CA, 1990, pp. 63-94.

15Atmosphere is that which is epistemologically depicted; in other words, culture is the atmosphere indicated by the work as an index sign. This has to do with the functions of an index.

16This is Lyotard's term: "the fact that one argumentation is legitimate doesn't mean that the other one is not". Compare: Jean-François Lyotard, Le Différend (Raskol), IK Zorana Stojanovića, Novi Sad, 1991, p. 5.

17Manifesta 3 - Newsletter 1, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, 2000

18Manifesta literally takes over the city.

19Manifesta alegorically represents the new Europe.

20Manifesta is one family of information distributed to the media.

21Tadej Pogačar, Home Stories, The P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. Museum of Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, 1999.

22Marjetica Potrč, Two Essays on Built Disasters, Project Space, Washington D.C, 1998.

23"Neue Sloweniche Kunst" (thematic issue), Problemi No. 254, Ljubljana, 1985.




PART II

THE IDEOLOGY OF EXHIBITION: ON THE IDEOLOGIES OF MANIFESTA

Approach

This short text is conceived as a deliberation on the ideology (fictional screen, ritual space and the functioning of apparatus) of one exhibition and a family of exhibitions. The deliberation is carried out by means of locating disclosures established on the premises of Cultural Studies, and it comparatively points out to:
1) the ideology of a family of exhibitions (e.g. the Venice Biennale, the Kassel Documenta and the mobile Manifesta),
2) the very ideology of Manifesta, and
3) the role of SCCAs (Soros Centers for Contemporary Arts) in the direct and indirect formulating of the status and priorities of the exhibition.

The Ideology of Exhibition (theoretical scheme)

The ideology of exhibition is not an aggregate of oriented and entirely rationalised intentions of its organisers (curators, authors of concept, financiers, cultural workers, politicians). The ideology is a precarious atmosphere (environment) of conceptualised as well as non-conceptualised possibilities, decisions, symbolisations, solutions, proclamations, oversights (erasure), fortuitous choices, selections, proposals, values, tacit insights, censorships, the effects of public and tacit taste, justifications, desires and social functions that form some sort of acceptable reality of the exhibition from the perspective of society and culture. In other words, the ideology of an exhibition or a family of exhibitions is not the order (text) of messages that the authors of exhibition are projecting and proclaiming in their introductory or accompanying texts; it is that difference between the intended and the unintended, the acceptable and the unacceptable in relation of the public and the tacit scene: the conscious and the unconscious, i.e., the literal and the fictional. The ideology of exhibition is not that which is meant to be accepted by public opinion (doxa) but, paradoxically, that which constitutes doxa and represents its expression (a single case) in some sort of exchange of 'social values' and 'social powers'.

Comparative Discussion on Great European Exhibitions

If one makes a fairly rough comparison of three entirely different families of international exhibitions: the Venice Biennale, the Kassel Documenta and the mobile Manifesta - there appear three entirely different political disclosures of 'the reality' of art.

The Venice Biennale was constituted in the époque of transformation of national Modernist cultures into the international language of great European and, subsequently, Euro-American Modernity (Modernism with capital M). In that sense, the structure of Biennale is 'solved' (plotted) as the relation between national pavilions and the international exhibition. Biennale's organisational structure repeats (recreates) the point of initiation of XX century Modernist art, i.e. the transformation of national bourgeois modernities into the international language of Modernism. This recreation of 'the original' transformation of Modernism (its particular national promises and identities) into a hegemonic and united international Modernism is the central 'voice' (effect) of all the biennial exhibitions, as much as they differ and project a specific concrete aesthetic, poetic or artistic problem in a given historical moment. The Venice Biennale is altogether marked by the Dialectics of Modernism (as 'it' is assumed by Hegel):
(i) thesis
(ii) antithesis and
(iii) synthesis.

Thesis is the national modernity (individual pavilions, often 'folkloristic' or 'hegemonic'). Antithesis is the international Modernism (collective international exhibition or exhibitions; it is the norm or the current canon). Synthesis is an exceptional artwork of the individual (the award-winner, the antecedent of a new phenomenon, the creator transcending one's own national horizon) who manifests his artistic, i.e. creative, originality, genius or grandeur by turning the national into the international of the great planetary Modernism.

As a family of exhibitions, the Kassel Documenta appears after World War II, at the time when the great hegemonic Modernism is the dominant ruling and encompassing culture of contemporary autonomy of art. Instead of national selections, there exists the intentional choice of great artists who represent neither a particular nation nor culture, nor even a movement, phenomenon or style, but rather demonstrate (transcend) the 'erased traces' of a movement or style as the expression of great individual artistry, inspiration, vigour, transgression or penetration of the individual - the Modernist artist him. This artist speaks, that is, acts by means of the language of distinguishable international modernity (the language of Paris, New York or some other hegemonic school) which portraits itself as the very source of current art and the artistic. This artist is a paradigmatic model of creator with:
(1) nature as role model - Pollock once said 'I create like the nature'
(2) machine as role model - Warhol once said 'I create like the machine'
(3) society as role model - Beuys acted and worked as society (social organism, social being: zoon politikon)

Documenta is a non-dialectic and non-historical exhibition. It is non-dialectic because it does not reveal the torque, but the HERE-present isolated and idealised force and power of the individual artist proper or the art masterpiece proper which exceeds its own context. It is non-historical because it does not reconstruct history but merely locates the moment (interval, segment, point, point de capiton) of history as an exceptional moment of appearance of an exceptional artist and his work (this is obvious at Documenta VII where the emerging Postmodernism overtakes the exceptionality of the curbed Modernism, and enables the 'weak', 'soft' or 'plural' subject of Postmodernism to reconstitute according to the model of the strong Modernistic subject of the ruling art market). In other words, the weak subject of Postmodernism has overtaken the effects of the strong subject and thus annulled itself; as an example, one can compare the status transformations of Clemente or Kiefer into the great masters of Western painting. But this occurs as well when new movements are promoted (Documenta X with Post-object art) or 'representations' of culture disclosed (Documenta X). Even Documenta X, which carries the promise of both history of Modernity and its culture as politics, is brought to an exceptional code of particularity of the ideality of an art which is made 'from' or 'of' transcending the political and the historical in the artistic. History and dialectics are being inscribed into the synchronicity of ideality. The Documenta X exhibition has shown the torque of representations of the political, the social or the cultural into a high aestheticism of an art that retains its autonomy and market singularity even when it explicitly advocates politics, society and culture through the illusion of documentary depiction of European realities.

But, something else happens with Manifesta. It is created with the explicit political claim in a moment of alteration of Block (binary) Europe into a Post-block (heterogeneous or plural) Europe, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Three essential yet uncertain demands occur here:

(i) a demand to establish a possibility of exhibiting, artistic and cultural - and that means also political - communication (exchange) between historically separated (perhaps even incomparable) cultures of Eastern and Western Europe, but also to point out to the relative relations of margin and centre within Western Europe proper as a paradigmatic model,
(ii) a demand to identify the identity (where identity is always a discursive creation /formation/ super-determined by culture) of transformation of international high art into trans-national (multicultural) art after the fall of the Berlin Wall (i.e. the instant where the Postmodernisms of late Capitalism, Western European retro-marginal cultures and Post-Socialism are brought together in the promise of 'open society'),
(iii) a demand on the status of art: art is no more suggested as a particular (autonomous and ideal) sphere (context) of creation or production, exchange and reception of artefacts (artworks). The evident border between art and culture is disturbed - hence the family of Manifesta exhibitions is not a presentation of grand works (masterpieces) of the actual moment but the archiving (classification) of the artefacts (traces, information, media re-coding) of culture of actuality on the site where art is expected.

While Venice Biennale operated through the dialectic tension of national and international, and Documenta through non-historicism and anti-dialectics of the individual, Manifesta is conceived as a transparent relation of arbitrary registers or: as a relation of indexing and mapping of possibilities of presenting the local (particular, specific, incomparable) culture to discursive machines and media capacities of mass culture of late Capitalism. With its mechanisms of disclosure and presentation, late Capitalism is inscribed into a seemingly non-conflictual situation of advocating cultural differences and gaps (of different cultures) of Europe at the end of XX century.

It is essential to recognise one more characteristic difference between Venice Biennale, Documenta and Manifesta in regard to the international art market and the utilitarian demands of national cultures. Venice Biennale offers at least a possibility of an exclusive and symbolical parallel display of formulations of national 'cultural' (national pavilions) and international 'market' (big international exhibitions) Modernism and Postmodernism. Documenta has always been an exhibition of international 'market' Modernism and Postmodernism. Documenta was the ground for crucial verification of an artist that makes the transition from local national culture and adolescent period into the high and big world of international art and its gallery and museum representative system. Contrary to that, an entirely new and as yet unknown situation occurred with the family of Manifesta exhibitions:
(i) a high international second league was created. That means that, within the political transformation of international hegemony into multiculturalism of the emerging globalisation, it was necessary to create a 'mobile' and 'open' institution which would integrate on global level: (a) young artists, (b) artists of those marginal Western European cultures which are not 'great' (as German, French, Italian and perhaps Russian are), and (c) artists of transitional former Eastern cultures,
(ii) this was done while avoiding a blow, or at least a disturbance, in the stable market system of identification and existence of the Grand Masters of Modernism and Postmodernism who constitute the art world or, bluntly said, the first master league; as if, with this, a space was created between the high autonomous art which builds the world of great epochal works and the chosen projected art that represents and depicts the actual interests of particular cultures and their identities;
(iii) as a matter of fact, what happened in Europe for the first time in XX century was that the world (institutions, officials) of high autonomous art enabled and plotted the space for the appearance of utilitarian (with functions) art which is other than it is; not jeopardising, but confirming it in its exceptionality and providing it, under careful control and selection, with fresh blood (young and other artists) that strengthens, but does not endanger.

The Logic of Institutions, SCCA and the Connection to Manifesta

It is my contention (and not only mine) that Post-Conceptual painting and sculpture (e.g. from the mid-70s on) have no historical logic of linear development (the change of styles, individual poetics or phenomena). Everything is in parallel and probable, with numerous feedbacks (counter-transfers, counter-blows) within loosely related worlds of art. It is a disordered and vast field of plural prospects and their multiplications (metastasis). This is not post-history, but a raving-raging history which falls apart and entropically dissipates, thus becoming a matter of academism or fascinating spectacle (between eye and body, that is, visual and haptic). There is no difference between 'the source' (of creation, renewal) and 'the abyss' (end) of painting and sculpture. Legitimacy goes to any artist's works of any strategy, gesture or procedure (Trans-Avant-garde, Neo-Expressionism, Anachronism, Non-Expressionism, Non-Conceptualism, Simulationism, Retro-Avant-garde, Sots-art, Cynical Realism, Post-Pop-art, Net-art, Cyber-art, etc). There is no difference between an oil painting and a digitally generated image, that is, between the solitary work on a painting in a studio and the art of spectacle by the rules of mass culture. Art appears as a field of vast possibilities. Vastness is the essential attribute of the art that calls itself the 'Postmodernism of the 80s'. Entering painting, leaving painting. Abandoning art. Obliterating the profession of painter and obsessively invoking the traditional role of painter-craftsman-labourer. The artist is at once entertainer (Koons), shaman (Beuys), producer (Warhol), master of craft (Stella), anthropologist (Kosuth), media analyst (Burgin), intelligent provocateur (Komar & Melamid) or a fiction constructor (Alice Aycock), etc�

In the 90s, major changes occur in the tissue of art. An unexpected turn takes place, amidst the very evasive pluralism and its evasive vastness.

In the artistic context of the USA, this change happens through the fragmentation of the gallery para-mediatic Neo-Conceptualism into particular models of representation and depiction of the ideal or, perhaps, the illusion of multicultural society: a society without ethnic, racial, sexual, culturally differentiated centre, and without the obvious tensions (conflicts). In other words, the means of elite autonomous art (e.g., Neo-Conceptualism and Neo-Expressionism) are being implemented for the purpose of registering the 'occurrences' of small or marginal cultures (Mexicans, Pakistani or Portoricans in the USA) by introducing them into the discursive and visual discernibility and the omni-presence of the mass culture of late Capitalism. In other words, local ethnic folklores acquire the contemporary media as well as trans-nationally recognisable language.

In the artistic context of Europe, there is a shift caused by the decline of Real-Socialism (Eastern Block) and by the creation of Western institutions whose function is to stimulate, initiate and provide transition processes in the East (from the former Soviet Union states to the Communist states of Central Europe and the Balkans). The stimulation, initiation and provision of these processes were enabled, among others, by Soros Centres for Contemporary Arts (SCCAs) of the Open Society Fund, commonly known as 'Soros'. Initially, those centres were envisaged as institutions that enabled the documenting of local art scenes, financing of present artistic projects and representing the trans-nationally emancipated local art on the international scene. In time, the Centres have connected into financial, communication, exhibiting, promotional and educational networks abridging the gap between the East in transition and the West in globalisation. What characteristically occurred soon after the creation of the Centres was the appearance of similar new art in entirely different, sometimes even incomparable, cultures. The narrative and the presented cases were different, but the means, i.e. the poetics of presentation, expression and communication were altogether comparable. To put it bluntly: This was probably not a plan or a program plotted in advance, but surely it is not a kind of whatever-Zeitgeist metaphysics!?! It has to do, I suppose, with the relation of function, structure and effect, the way that was disclosed long ago by Foucault (discourse) or Žižek (ideology). This means that we are dealing with the function of the institution that reconfigures art according to non-artistic criteria:

(i) globally: the initiation of transition in Eastern European cultures,
(ii) poetically: the emancipation from the elite autonomous-artistic Modernism and Postmodernism in practical-artistic as well as theoretical-interpretational sense,
(iii) culturologically: the metamorphosis of 'alternative' (emancipated urban) art as marginal art of national culture, positioned between popular and high culture, into sonde-art by which strategies of relativisation of relation of margin and centre are tested, projected and represented in every concrete single society. In other words, culture itself becomes 'the material' and 'the medium' of engagement with the aim of anticipation and realisation of non-conflicting (politically correct) society, and
(iv) politically: the artwork becomes the demonstrating media object by which a politically toned, but not wholly explicit practice and production of samples are being realised, promising a real activity within the civil society which is yet to be created. Thus the conditions of creation and presentation of critical, cynical, subversive and, quite clearly, nihilistic art of Perestroika, Sots-art, Cynical Realism or Retro-Avant-garde, are essentially neutralised.

This effectively brought to the creation of a formula for 'the genesis' of a work that has a go and that receives theoretical and financial support. The ontology of artwork attains a recognisable morphology:
(a) new media (trans-national) + (b) local (regional) themes = (c) presentation 'of' erased traces of culture.

One can observe another enticing controversy. The model which was established for marginal or other (e.g. Mexican, Portorican, or Eastern European) cultures is now also being implemented, through the exhibitions of Manifesta and similar exhibitions under the influence of the Centres (e.g., After the Wall), to small or peripheral Western European cultures such as Sweden, The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, etc. Consequently they are included in the 'emancipating' horizon of the equalising multicultural sociability of the end of XX century.
That is why I used on one occasion - and without any irony whatsoever - the term Soros Realism to mark the artistic productions that are being supported by SCCAs. This term literally refers to the art:
(a) that has function (see i-iv),
(b) that has a relation of presentation and representation towards a concrete reality of society and culture (see formula /a/+/b/=/c/), and
(c) that has an 'optimal projection', which means a positive social exchange project (emancipation, education) which is being represented 'through' the work of art.

Soros Realism is not a Realism in the sense of return to the Realism of the paranoid nationalistic type, which emerged, in most Post-Socialist societies in the 80s and the 90s. It is neither a brutal variation of Socialist Realism that has established the canons of expression in the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s in the East. Contrary to that, it is a soft and subtle uniformisation and standardisation of Postmodernist pluralism and multiculturalism as a criterion of enlightened political Liberalism that has to be realised by European societies at the turn of the century. A concrete benefit of such approach is the shifting from 'the limited' (purely elite) emancipation borne both by the high art and the alternative, to an all-encompassing social emancipation within the frame of local culture. For instance, the theories of Post-structuralism and the values of Liberalism that have the character of 'academic' or 'museum-like', and certainly of 'intellectual minority' discourse, now become 'through' art the discourse, taste and value of the 'normal' culture of the emerging middle-class intellectual stratum and its public opinion (doxa). The concrete deficiency of such an approach to art is the establishing of 'the average overview' which realises artistic and aesthetic goals as culturally determined effects. In other words, the art of the young, the marginal and those in transition acquires 'its own' mobile reservation of promised prospects of survival and realisation.

 


References

1. Documenta V, Kassel, 1972.
2. Alan Sondheim, Individuals: Post-Movement Art in America, A. Dutton Paperback, 1977.
3. Slavoj Žižek, Hegel in označevalec (Hegel and the Adressant), Analecta, Ljubljana, 1980.
4. Documenta VII, Kassel, 1982.
5. Slavoj Žižek, Filozofija skozi psihoanalizo (Philosophy through Psychoanalysis), Analecta, Ljubljana, 1984.
6. Venecijanski bijenale i jugoslavenska moderna umjetnost (The Venice Biennale and Yugoslav Modern Art), Ed. by Želimir Koščevi­ć, Contemporary Arts Gallery, Zagreb, 1988.
7. Frederic Jameson, Postmodernizem (Postmodernism), Analecta, Ljubljana, 1992.
8. Urbanaria I, Ed. by Lilijana Stepančič, OSI-Slovenia (SCCA-Ljubljana), Ljubljana, 1994.
9. Quarterly: The Soros Centres for Contemporary Arts 5, Soros Centres for Contemporary Arts Network, 1995.
10. Mikhail N. Epstein, After the Future. The Paradoxes of Postmodernism and Contemporary Russian Culture, The University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1995.
11. Manifesta I - European Biennial of Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, 1996.
12. Documenta X, Kassel, 1997.
13. Druga godišnja izložba (Second Annual Exhibition), SCCA-Belgrade, Belgrade, 1997.
14. 'The New Europe Issue' (thematic issue), Siksi 4, Helsinki, 1997.
15. Christopher Phillips, 'The View from Europe's Lower East Side', Art in America, October 1997: pp 47-53.
16. Art Work in Public Spaces, SCCA-Prague, Prague, 1997.
17. Otok / Island, Editor-in-Chief: Janka Vukmir, SCCA-Zagreb, Zagreb, 1997.
18. Urbanaria II, Ed. by Lilijana Stepančič, OSI-Slovenia (SCCA-Ljubljana), Ljubljana, 1997.
19. Manifesta 2 - European Biennial of Contemporary Art, Luxembourg, 1998.
20. Michel Foucault, Arheologija znanja (Archaeology of Knowledge), Plato, Belgrade, 1998.
21. Michel Foucault, Treba braniti društvo. Predavanja na Kolež de Fransu iz 1976. godine (We Must Defend the Society. Lectures at College de France in 1976), Svetovi, Novi Sad, 1998.
22. Manifesta 3 - European Biennial of Contemporary Art; Ed. by Igor Zabel, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2000.

 

Copyright: Avtorji & SCCA, Zavod za sodobno umetnost-Ljubljana /Authors & SCCA, Center for Contemporary Art-Ljubljana








PART III

Critical Phenomenology of Artwork:

The Status, the Functions and the Effects of the Artwork at Manifesta 3

Status and Functions

In a certain moment at the beginning of Nineties, in a very particular moment of European history - after the breakdown of Real-Socialism (the Eastern Block) - there was the reconstitution of the function of art and the renewing of criteria of "validity" along the lines of "political correctness" in the Post-Block world. Art has become anew "a matter of culture" with certain functions of mediating the positive social interest in the sense of public or general politics and ethics. The new art of the Nineties obtains social functions (the function of culture and practical politics) of mediation between the possible worlds (the centre, differentiating margins, transitional formations, crisis points) as well as the social function of creating an atmosphere of expected political correctness in a Europe deprived of totalitarian divisions. The formulations of painting and sculpture are being replaced with the formulations of open information work (video, installation, photography, linguistic-visual inter-text). Open information work represents the erased trace of site-specific culture (of the region, city, street, apartment, human body or geographic macro-space). A work of art is the inscription of layered and selected traces of culture "of" a certain located specific place and situation. The ontology and the morphology of these "contemporary" works is not an autonomous aesthetic form or occurrence, but it is conditioned by the unstable and adaptable:

(a) phenomenology of information;

(b) structural functionality of the context and

(c) the logic of narration

in the conceptual order of the articulation of meaning (attitude, point of view and social value). This is an art made 'of' narrative, representative and transferred traces and effects of a concrete culture. In other words:

(i) while traditional realistic approach of the nineteenth or the social ones of the twentieth century strove towards a faithful or optimal depiction of the world outside art,

(ii) while Avant-garde and Neo-Avant-garde Anti-or-Post-Art "Realisms" (Concretisim, New Realism, Neo-Dada, Pop Art, Arte Povera) strove towards a literal post-Duchampesque transfer of the objects from the world outside art into the extraordinary and critical world of art,

(iii) Realism (Soros Realism, Multicultural Realism) at the end of the Nineties emerged as a media presentation of real as well as fictional information and their erased and transferred traces through the relation of image and word in the process of constituting the social ideology of Globalisation, that is to say, the post-conflict Europe.


The Ontology of Artwork in the Nineties

One of the characteristics of the Nineties is the redefinition of the ontology of artwork according to the idea of the work of art as critical information in the conceptual art of the Sixties and the Seventies. The difference is that "the new work of the Nineties" is being realised according to the massive media infrastructure of late Postmodernism with the expectations of the positive micro-social projection of political correctness (environment, local customs, the logic or repression of everyday life, the rights of the margin in relation to the center, the gender issue, discursive formations of identity). This new art finds itself between the critique and the apology of social reality; in itself, it is an offer to reality as an imaginary and symbolical representation of possible "co-existence" of identities and their differences. But how did this particular ontology of artwork occur?

We should start with the models constituted in the Conceptual art of the early and mid-Seventies. Joseph Kosuth, for instance, has explicitly established uncertain assumptions that were a direct attack on the Greenbergian Modernistic autonomy of the artwork as an established form or an expression of individual creative efforts of the artist :

(i) according to him, "Function refers to 'art context'. Art only exists as a context, that is its nature - has no other qualities. (...) With the functioning of sets within sets, boundaries are temporary and arbitrary and wholly dependent on a sense of 'purpose'"

(ii) furthermore, he promised in several projects the essential relation between the text and the context in the process of manufacturing of the sense: "Text/Context: It is the intention of this work to further make/show the nature of the activity ('making meaning') to be a contingent, contextual aspect of cultural processes (with art being a concrete instance)"; he eventually

(iii) concluded in his famous critique of Eclectic Fine Arts Modernism of the Eighties: "There are no new forms, only new meanings. An artist is engaged in the making of meaning, whether it's the cancellation of meaning or not"

If we separate Kosuth's ideas on critical Conceptual art from their primary function - and that is the critique of Essentialism, Objectivism and Universalism of the high Greenbergian Modernism - then we obtain a scheme which will gain its necessary institutional character in the actual culture of the Nineties. In other words, institutional media executions of function, context and manufacturing of meaning within culture become the essential aspects of an artwork which is no longer based on the concept and the appearance of the designed, executed or expressed form. The artwork is - and this is an ontological category - a mediatic constellation of information by which the functions of context are being presented in the manufacturing of social meaning of problems of Post-Socialistic, European Civil or Liberal American society. Art becomes a sonde for testing and presenting culture in its social capacities of function, context and manufacturing of public meaning. In the climate of the New World Order, a subversive yet internally artistic strategy of conceptual art has become relevant, dominant and mainstream: the art of depicting and constituting the social reality.


The Ideology of Manifesta as Read in the Catalogues of Manifesta 1,2,3

The previous remarks singled out some common features of the presentation of the ideology of the exhibitions and the catalogues of Manifesta 1,2,3. I will take up the catalogues for a moment. They are over-designed, unintelligible, opaque... They offer an abundance of heterogenous materials whose meaning or sense do not derive from painterly, sculptural or visual appearance, but from the offered conceptual and narrative instructions, descriptions or contents which are parallel to the visual material. It is difficult to discern the information on the artist, the artwork itself and the documents on the art and culture from which they derive. There is an obvious overlapping of the "inscription" of art and the "inscription" of culture in the field of perception that is the reading (the deciphering of signs). Joseph Kosuth once said very precisely that nowadays there is no difference between a Van Gogh's painting and the palette on which he was mixing colours. Textual concepts or narrations are a necessary supplement (explanation, an introduction into the offer and the possibilities of meaning) to the visual material which would remain as an unintelligible arbitrary document of some out-of-art event on which the work of art and its presentation refer to. This means that the catalogue is in itself an archive of information (discursive objects) which do not have necessarily to be extracted and identified - that is, judged - as an object of aesthetic enjoyment, identification and understanding in a Modernistic sense. Every Manifesta catalogue is re-constructed according to the models:

(a) of presentation of 'the idea' of the artist in the way that derives out of historical Conceptual Art: A work of art is an inter-textual and inter-visual order of information in the process of re-semantisation of actuality,

(b) unlike 'the critical idealism' of historical Conceptual Art of the end of the Sixties and the early Seventies, "the themes" chosen by the artists of the second half of the Nineties do not belong to the narrow domain of exploration of art as art and art as an extraordinary excess within culture; they rather belong to the wide open domain of representation or erasing of the traces of culture (privatness, public culture, popular culture, regionalism, marginality, sexuality, consumerism, simulations of promises of actual culture, the postponing of the artistic, political correctness, reconcilliation of antagonisms, war, the horror of everyday life, psychological atmosphere of 'the citizen') within the very information-based system of social reality in the Žpoque of communication.

(c) the designer's unintelligibility of the catalogues of Manifesta 1,2,3 exhibitions is not an accidental "lapse", but a desired effect of the omni-present arbitrariness of the situation in which the artist (author, manufacturer) is now functioning as cultural worker (the archivist of erased traces of actual culture and its potential simulations within the artistic discourses that are being re-semanticised in art the same way the artifacts are being semanticised in popular mass culture), and

(d) the relation of 'artworks' of Eastern and Western European artists - in other words, the relation of otherness of Eastern Europe and the margins of Western Europe - reveals the similarity of products, i.e. the information morphology of works (in fact, the manner of representation) and an important difference concerning the displayed fanaticism - it reveals the tension between (i) the fanaticism of uncontrolled consumption of information or values (dominant West), then, (ii) the phantasm of fear of losing the regional identity (marginal West), and (iii) an already worn-out cynicism (or, better said, sentimentalism, melancholy, hopelessness) of the fulfilled and unfulfilled promise of consumption after the fall of the Berlin Wall (ex-Eastern Europe).

In other words, there is no more Western autonomous art (from high Modernism to eclectic painterly postmodernisms) and Eastern political art (from Perestroika Art to Retro-Avant-garde art) at Manifesta 1,2,3. The exhibitions and the catalogues of Manifesta 1,2,3 are political manifestations based on the confrontation of two or more Europas.


Manifesta 3: Phenomenology of Artwork

Manifesta 3 was presented in several different places: in Modern Gallery, in International Graphic Art Centre, in the National Museum of Slovenia, in Cankarjev dom and on various locations in town. The majority of the works at Manifesta 3 are not works per se or for their own sake, but works that are determined by the reference (external relation) and the referent (external real or fictitious object, content, narrative). In most cases, the reference is established as follows:

(i) installation-work or semantic-interactive-intervention-work realised for a specific location (site specific works), in order to provoke or evoke a behavioural or semantic reaction of the audience - for instance: the passing simulational installation of Šejla Kamerić which provokes the status of European and other citizens on the Three Bridges, or the absurd, arbitrary and behavioural installation of Škart group on the floor of Modern Gallery that points out the concern for the dog excrement in a stable civilised society as Belgium or Slovenia;

(ii) information-on-context-work or document-on-functions-work realised through a media-mediating installation (video installation, photographic installation) with textual instructions as semantic additions which clarify visual 'data' (on refugees, foreign guest workers, domestic rigid legislation, private stories, homeless, etc.) - for instance, photo installations of the designers' network Schie 2.0 on 'rigid' laws in the Netherlands, or a photo-video-text documentation of Marjetica Potrč on the entropies of modern cities;

(iii) sample-work or trigger-work realised as installation or video projection that provokes a certain psychological effect on the spectator - in fact, it provokes a situation which exposes a schism between "the knowledge of oneself in the world" and a direct sensory (visual) or body confrontation with the acting influential object, situation or event - for instance, the ambiental work of Tomo Savić-Gecan embodied as an empty shrinking white room, or the usage of visual (video) representation of the artist's body as the representative of a psycho-physiological state in the video work of Ene-Liss Semper.

How would I comment those six 'executions'? In a certain way, I re-acted to them and read them as paradigmatic solutions of "the artwork" through which the uncertain concepts of Manifesta 3 could be interpreted.

Šejla Kamerić's installation is on the Three Bridges. People are reading the inscriptions. The inscriptions "Others" and "European citizens" seem confusing, but attract attention. The passer-bys soon realise that it is a game and they walk away. This work has an effect:

(1) on those who pass by the bridge for the first time and read the inscription that doesn't have a concrete function there on the bridge, although it seems as it might have, and

(2) on those who have seen such an inscription at airports and have the experience of passport control for "Others", and

.................?..................

 

The intervention of inscriptions is semantic. It evokes a certain feeling or memory of embarrassment in the observer. It evokes one's own otherness and its absurdity. It demonstrates that every identity is a discursive product, doesn't it? The location for the work was well chosen - this means, a busy place - and the effect is being multiplied by the large number of accidental participants-passer-bys.

The installation of Belgrade group Škart could pass unnoticed. It is trivial and senseless: it takes place in Brussels and refers to dog excrement, civil responsibility, European hygiene, foreigners that came from the Balkans where there is no concern for human lives, let alone the dog excrement, etc...... The work can be understood in a threefold manner:

(a) as ironising the trivial, alienated and dehumanised (dog-oriented) human relations in a civil society,

(b) as a provocation of the "senseless and rigid European order" which is concerned even with the dog excrement, from the side of non-European or Balkan artists who live in a world where things still unfold in epically dramatic or lethal way, and

(c) as an expression of despair of Serbian artists who, in order to enter the game of international art, have to reach for nonsense tricks like: "we are those good guys that make fun out of everything and everybody in this world" in a totally nice and benign way; in other words, they make an international career out of their cunning innocence that only seemingly provokes something or somebody, whereas it produces a patronising smile and a comment "well, you are not such bad guys after all", here is a piece of bread (grant, per diems, fee) for you.


Perhaps I am being too critical towards the work of Škart group. However, the problem is not in them but in the curators that choose such a work as a sign-symbol for a specific geo-strategic space. Perhaps that is why their work is also "good"; perhaps it is good because it demonstrates the logic, the concepts and the strategies of curators who build their strategies of "New Humanism" and "care for others" on the misery of ex-East-European artists and their wretched mimicry targeted to satisfy curators' expectations. Yes, this is the reason why the work of Škart group is excellent and that is why it speaks about "its own status" as well as in the name of numerous works at Manifestas.

The designers' network called Schie 2.0 discovered something entirely different, and that is that the civil society is rigid and boring. This is no particular discovery. In the Nineties, California and Switzerland are much more boring "life" environments than, for instance, Rwanda, Iran, Iraq, Tchetchenya, Serbia, Croatia or Bosnia. This is common place.

The Netherlands is a prototype of such a "stable" and slightly boring society. In the photo-textual installation of Schie 2.0 network, the rigidity of everyday life is brought to an order of signs that represent reality. However, their realism cannot change anything, even not on the level of "critical awareness"; this is a designing of notions of reality that seem to be a critique, but they are nothing else than a repetition of dead signs of a task assigned within the strategy of curators' expectations. This work is on the verge of kitsch, as kitsch is what shows itself as the one that it really isn't. This work is an imitation of critical art in order not to execute critique; that everything would remain the same, that the design would only multiply the banal fact that, in a stable society, laws are stupid and rigid.

 

The series of photographs, texts and the video installation of Marjetica Potrč confronts two paradoxical intentions:

(i) the intention to make a work of the type information-inter-visual-inter-textual, and

(ii) the intention to draw culture (its erased traces, the erased traces of cities) into a game of artistic re-assigning, in which reality itself is being treated as the material for the artistic act.

By its documentarity, the work of Marjetica Potrč thus seemingly resembles the other works at Manifesta 3 ; yet, it also departs from them appearing as a gesture of an artist that depicts culture by instruments of art and art by instruments of culture. It is a gesture on the border of fictitious and literal, i.e., between the offer of presence and the indexing of absence. Her work is a game on the very border of art and culture and this saves her from the expected and offered role of cultural worker. She offers the experience of an artist, and not an experience of a cultural worker. The essential difference lies in the experience, its complexity and polysemanticism. Similar visual or media results can correspond to entirely different experiences and selves. This is essential. She has indexed the entropy of the world by means of the instability of art and that's it... Marjetica Potrč is one of the rare ŇartistsÓ at Manifesta who, regardless of her Eastern or Western origin, has not succumbed to the trap of Eastern-European self-pitying. This is good art whose building material is the cultural context and its erased traces. For this reason and in the best sense of the word, her strategies could also serve as basis for subtle curatorial interventions in art-culture interrelation.

Tomo Savić-Gecan has created a highly intelligent and effective work: An empty white room in which, at first glance and in the first moment, nothing changes. Void. To an accidental passerby, this work will give an impression of a relapse of Modernist Minimalism, an offer of emptier than empty. But in further visits during the day, a more careful observer will discover that the room is shrinking. One wall is moving and the room is becoming smaller. Claustrophobia. Xenophobia. The work first produces an entirely physical effect; then on the psychological level it provokes the elementary micro-culturology of direct behaviouralism. This is the usage of the power of allegory that depicts culture as a room that loses its inner volume. Yet, this depiction is not narrative but physical, material, semantic. Entering the concrete behavioural performance, the spectator is forced to confront the 'world itself' without mediators and additional indexes (textual propositions).

The work of Ene-Liss Semper leaves a good visual impression along with an uncertain power of visual constitution of expressive and absurd atmosphere in the space between life and death. It is a very traditional work, so traditional that it could be defined by Brejc's term Dark Modernism. This work is executed with high precision: the properties of video art (static frame, slow motion, repetition, ironic self-view, visual alienation of the figure) are being used as means for achieving a powerful expressive image almost in the tradition of Northern Romanticism. It functions as a mobile expressive image. Irony is here in the function of expression: it emphasises the expressiveness of the work by distantiation from subjectivity (as a dramaturgical technique, this can be found in Beckett). Irony is the arbitrary demonstrated actant. It is the question of differentiating between the significant and the signifier in the screen sign; this differentiation is not a mere arbitrariness of everyday life (as in Schie 2.0) but a focus on the very culturological absence of motivation between the image and significance (of life, death, significant and signifier), etc....

As many other examples from the Manifesta 3 exhibition, these examples point out to the problem of status and functions of art in contemporary world. For, art is being confronted with its own success, the success of becoming reality itself, i.e. the symbolical and imaginary cultural order where that which is in and that which is out of art do not differ anymore... Where fiction is being lost in literalism, or rather, where representation is merely an indicator of the interest of curatorial strategies. Art today has its function and its contexts, expectations and families of intelligibility. After the unintelligibility of the ecstatic Sixties, pluralistic Seventies and eclectic Eighties, there is a certain order and a new kind of intelligibility in the art of the Nineties. Families of similarity can be expected between entirely different works, precisely because they have the same function, although they belong to different contexts. The new intelligibility is achieved and it rules the European art scene...


One Comparison: Artworks at Manifesta 3 and at 2000+ - ArtEast Collection of Modern Gallery exhibition

The comparison of those two exhibitions is inevitable by the very fact of the intention of organisers to present them simultaneously. These two exhibitions are competitive. They are competitive because they are offering a similar concept (art as a trace of culture) and different effects (the exhibited works differ precisely in their ontology and its consequences in the hiatus between the literal and the fictional). In other words, both exhibitions depart from the state of affairs, and that is that the border between art and culture has narrowed down, almost to the point of being annulled.

Manifesta 3 establishes the approximate identity: art is culture (with some exceptions). It thus demonstrates how, in reality, art is being lost in culture. Art postpones itself through culture. This occurs by art obtaining its utilitarian function (the representation of social interest, the constitution of reality) and realising this function through a "work" that has information ontology and morphology. At Manifesta 3, there is practically no work of the format of "piece".

Contrary to that, the Metelkova exhibition is an exhibition of artworks that were purchased by the museum institution as 'valid' (aesthetical-artistic) and 'significant' (culturological-historical) works of one Epoque (from late Modernism to Postmodernism in the era of late Socialism and Post-Socialism). Still, those works are works that, in some ways, directly or indirectly problematise culture (Beuys, Štembera, Prigov, Mangelos, Stilinović, Todosijević, even Kapoor) but without imitating or simulating it; they don't become cultural artifacts with no artistic features, etc.... The ontology of those artworks is as artistic as the open and unstable Duchampian tradition – to which they mostly belong – allows them.

These two exhibitions are simultaneously posing a similar problem: the relation of art and culture and the indication of different solutions. On the one hand, it is the logic of cultural worker (artist, curator) who re-combines imaginary and symbolic realities of the information world (Manifesta 3); on the other hand, it is the logic of the artist of Duchampian tradition who transforms the world into a 'trace' (work) which is a certain resistance to the world itself by means of it own material (signifier) skeleton. The Curator him/herself is the one who imitates the artist and moves the artifacts from culture into the exquisiteness of art. Even the building which hosts the exhibition is such a transferred artifact (from a military compound into a museum).

To which exhibition one should give priority? While I was observing the exhibitions, I was more inclined to the collection of Modern Gallery at Metelkova. Now, with a certain time distance, I am not so sure anymore!?!? In other words, I would favour the very rivalry between those two concepts and the two executions of the exhibitions, since art is not merely the work per se, but also the juxtaposition of the possibility to confront the works. Confrontation is art.

 

 





CONTENTS







ART & THEORY
Flags, Oliver Musovik
Flags
Oliver Musovik

"GLOCAL" EXHIBITIONS

Istanbul Biennial
Charles Esche

Discourses of Manifesta - Critical Reading of the Discourses of an International Exhibition
Miško Šuvaković

Thinking in the house of the Balkan ‘gloc-art’
Louisa Avgita



ART WORK
SYSTEMS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 



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